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3 Things You'll Like About UnitedHealth Group's Q1 Results

By Keith Speights - Apr 15, 2020 at 4:00PM

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The health insurer's business appears to be solid in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

UnitedHealth Group (UNH -0.90%) has weathered the storm caused by the COVID-19 outbreak better than most. Although the health insurer's shares fell more than 30% at one point, the stock is now down by only a low single-digit percentage.

The company's announcement of its 2020 first-quarter results on Wednesday helped boost its fortunes. Here are three things you'll probably like about UnitedHealth Group's Q1 update.

First quarter key on keyboard

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Solid revenue gain

UnitedHealth Group reported Q1 revenue of $64.4 billion, up 6.8% year over year. The consensus Wall Street estimate projected revenue of $64.32 billion.

The company's UnitedHealthcare insurance business contributed $51.1 billion of its total revenue in the first quarter. This result reflected a 4.4% increase over the prior-year period. Growth in Medicare Advantage and dual special needs plans served as the primary drivers of the revenue increase.

However, UnitedHealth Group's Optum segment generated most of the company's growth. Optum's revenue totaled $32.8 billion in Q1, a 24.6% year-over-year jump. All three of its individual businesses, OptumHealth, OptumInsight, and OptumRx, delivered double-digit revenue growth.

2. Better-than-expected earnings

Analysts were expecting UnitedHealth Group to report adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $3.63 in the first quarter. The company easily topped that estimate with actual Q1 adjusted earnings of $3.72 per share.

Granted, this result was a little lower than UnitedHealth's adjusted EPS of $3.73 in the prior-year period. In addition, the company's net income based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) slipped to $3.38 billion in the first quarter from $3.47 billion in the same period of last year.

However, UnitedHealth Group's income taxes increased significantly from the first quarter of 2019, causing its GAAP net earnings to be lower. This impact carried over into its adjusted EPS result.

3. No change to full-year outlook

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about UnitedHealth Group's Q1 update was that the company maintained its full-year 2020 earnings guidance. The company continues to expect GAAP net earnings between $15.45 and $15.75 per share with adjusted EPS of between $16.25 and $16.55.

UnitedHealth Group wasn't affected much by the COVID-19 outbreak in Q1; the U.S. wasn't hit hard until late in the quarter. The company said, though, that it will "continue to evaluate the impact of COVID-19" to monitor how the pandemic could affect its businesses.

In the meantime, UnitedHealth Group has taken several steps in response to the COVID-19 crisis. These steps include speeding up nearly $2 billion of payments to healthcare providers to help provide liquidity, providing unlimited telehealth visits free of charge, and removing all prior authorizations related to COVID-19 cases.

Looking ahead

The biggest unknown factor for UnitedHealth Group is related to U.S. unemployment rates. If unemployment remains high, it could cause the company's commercial medical membership to drop. Commercial membership did fall a little in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, but this decline was in line with the company's guidance.

There is one piece of encouraging news on this front. In the Q1 conference call, management stated that monthly premiums collected in April were only slightly lower than in March. For now, UnitedHealth Group appears to be in good shape to continue riding out the coronavirus crisis more successfully than most.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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